Noilly Prattle: China 2017: 12 – the “scenic route” to Fenghuang

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

China 2017: 12 – the “scenic route” to Fenghuang

the new passenger -
in the car on upper left
     We encountered a series of difficulties after leaving the Maosao Inn by private car. It started out normally enough and we were on our way around 10:00 am. The trip was estimated to take about four hours. After half an hour or so the driver asked us if we were hungry. We said no, but he pulled off the road a short time later and suggested we eat at a roadside cafe since “it would be a long drive”. He seemed to be looking out for our welfare so we shrugged our shoulders and decided to eat. Besides, I needed to urinate so I asked the proprietress if she had a toilet. She didn't understand the word “toilet” and no one else spoke English. In desperation I mimed urinating. She understood immediately, burst out laughing and pointed to a public toilet across the street. The driver took me in hand and we both crossed the busy road dodging the traffic. 

       When we returned from the toilet I noticed a young woman sitting in the car and eating. I sat down at an outdoor table and we ordered some beef noodles which were excellent. We got back in the car and discovered a new passenger, the aforementioned young woman, who was obviously a friend of the driver's. The reason the driver wanted to stop at that particular sidewalk cafe now became obvious—to pick up the young woman. She turned out to be a non-stop chatterbox and obviously knew the driver—possibly a girl friend or relative—rarely shut her mouth except for one nap. It got really annoying after a while.

taking the "scenic route"
               We naively assumed that the driver would take the high speed toll road. Wrong! The roads he took were local roads through every town and hamlet; bumpy and often choked with heavy traffic as we crawled through seemingly endless construction zones. I sarcastically remarked that we were taking the “scenic route”, avoiding the toll road to Fenghuang most likely because the driver wanted to save on tolls to maximize his profit.

       We were not in the best of moods. The driver had finally taken a stretch of the toll road before getting to the Fenghuang interchange. (By then I was able to recognize the Chinese characters for Fenghuang [鳳凰] and noticed the sign for the interchange and breathed a sigh of relief.) As we approached Fenghuang interchange, however, motor mouth was gesticulating and talking a mile a minute and distracted the driver so that he missed the turn off. He nonchalantly said something in Chinese that approximated “Ooops!” and we had to continue on the toll road for another 23 km to the next exit, do a U-turn and come back for a 50 km detour. The four hour trip turned into something like a six hour, give or take, bad dream.

our room with garden view -
veggie patch, that is
our hotel hostess
       I was really furious, but at the same time relieved to get to the rendezvous place (flawlessly, once in Fenghuang, I have to admit), where we met a woman from the hotel. The driver looked meaningfully at me for his 1000 yuan fare. I gave him a look with a malicious gleam in my eye and drawled: “I suppose you want your money!”--partly wasted since he didn't understand a word of English. I was sorely tempted to give him only half the fee but didn't want to deal with a public scene in which I would be at a disadvantage not able to speak Chinese. 

       The woman we met, who turned out to be the hotel owner's wife, escorted us on foot to the hotel which wasn't very far. She was kind and patient but spoke no English so it took a while to iron out the registration and room choice details, but we finally got the right room according to the photos on

"Right. Let's order a couple more."
"One drink is not enough!"
        Although tired and still in a somewhat angry mood from the long arduous drive we were hungry and needed a drink. The hotel is conveniently located right in the old town of Fenghuang. We strolled around the charming river area at dusk and found a restaurant that served Margaritas so we went in and had a couple drinks apiece and ordered a pizza, salad and spaghetti and enjoyed the evening strollers and the sunset over the old town and the river. 

getting ready for their close up

evening lights

the bar scene on our street
   On our way back to the hotel the atmosphere had changed dramatically on our street. It was dark and all the neon signs were on and music was blaring from the bars and nightclubs. Later, back at the hotel, we found that the heater in our room was inadequate and that the mattress was quite hard, so we decided to shorten our stay from 7 to 5 days. That started a round of complications with the mistress and with since you can't change reservations online yourself once you are at the hotel. 

      But that's another story.

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